Posts Tagged ‘Christian book promotion’

Of the Writing of Book Review Requests, There is No End

To be fair, that’s out of 30,535 emails, and some of them were read on another device.

The number of emails in my in-box is increasing.

I’m not sure if it’s because of Christian Book Shop Talk, or because of Thinking Out Loud, but the volume of mail asking me to promote books is noticeably increasing.

Most if not all are self-published titles. I think it’s ironic that these authors are begging me to mention them, while on the other side of my email app, I’m begging major publishers to let me review their books, with a promise of a trifecta consisting of a trade mention here, a review at Thinking Out Loud, and a chapter excerpt at Christianity 201.

They aren’t interested.

In the meantime, I’m left with a collection of indie authors who, while they may be sincere and doctrinally orthodox, haven’t been vetted by a process that includes acquisition editors, proposal meetings, first draft editing, final editing and more. And decent graphic art. So much I could say about the last one. Yes you can judge a book by its cover.

Much of this mail includes a link to the book’s page on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I think that sending an Amazon link to a trade bookstore is insulting and triggering. There. I said it.

If I have the time and inclination to pursue that, I always look very carefully to see if there is an ISBN embedded in the URL of the page. Often, there is a just a B-number and that means the book doesn’t have an ISBN and any other searching is going to prove futile. It can also mean the book isn’t in print at all, but they’re asking me to promote an e-book. To an audience of trade bookstore owners. Go figure.

Then I apply the ISBN to Ingram or BookManager to see if there is any trade distribution. Often the books have no availability to the trade bookstores. At that point, it’s game over as far as I’m concerned.

If the book is part of Ingram Publisher Services or Baker and Taylor’s equivalent (which often are listed at Parasource) I then check three things.

First, Is there a decent trade discount? Books which are 10% or NET are never going to get stocked in inventory in our stores. Shelf space is too precious. Orders, maybe. On a NET price item, maybe not. 20% or 30%, possibly.

A 25% discount at Ingram is an interesting case. It often means that the book has been published by an Amazon subsidiary. For some reason, a lot of their titles land at 25%. Do I want to support them indirectly? I take these on a case-by-case basis.

Second, I check the BISAC cateorgy or Ingram category or Dewey category. Is this even a Christian book? You’d be surprised at the requests I get — and now we’re including customer special-order requests — for books listed as new age or parapsychology with no reference to Christianity at all. Unless it’s for a pastor or seminary student doing research, this item isn’t going to find its way to my shelves.

Third, assuming discounts and categories work, I check the page count. It’s amazing how many books are doing well up to this point and then fail the content test. Generally I’m not legalistic about this, but I consider 10-cents US per page to be reasonable. $19.99 US for 106 pages means the book is overpriced. Or $14.99 US for 72 pages. It’s too high, and we haven’t even done the conversion to Canadian dollars. This particular check is often the reason why the discount is generous. Conversely, some books with shorter discounts offer a good volume of reading and assuming the US list price is not printed on the back, will sustain a higher-than-normal markup for a special order.

In terms of my email however, there is often a sixth sense that comes into play. Call it discernment. The book checks all the boxes, but I still have red flags in my head. A look into the online life and other works by the author often supplies clues that this isn’t a book I want our store to be associated with.

Having said all that, for some of you it’s a different process that involves customer reviews. For something you’re considering in inventory, that’s a good thing to research if you have time.

Another good question to ask is, What other Christian retailers are carrying this product? I have some go-to websites for this including Parable or ChristianBook in the US and Koorong and Eden Books overseas, especially if it’s a writer from outside North America whose books have impacted in far away places. North American Christianity can get really myopic.

Finally, I know there are some people who are thinking, ‘Don’t open the emails.’ Yes, the cream rises to the top, but only in a fair distribution system. Finding a hidden gem or two that will really work in your market gives you a competitive edge against anyone else your customer buys books from, but you need to follow up your decision to inventory the book with mentions on your store Facebook page, your store newsletter, and your store blog. Differentiating a genuine ‘find’ such as these titles is harder to do on BookManager where every book gets the same treatment, and that’s why I recommend having a store blog and using a newsletter and social media to especially create some buzz for a unique title.


Today’s title with apologies to Solomon in Eccl. 12:12

Bookstore Employees to Gain Digital Access to Forthcoming Titles

netgalley_logo_perfectWhat has been a mainstay for bloggers and major Christian media writers wanting to review unreleased, forthcoming Christian books — NetGalley — is about to be opened up to Christian bookstore owners, managers and employees.

The initial announcement was made by CBA last week, but hopefully a contingency will be put in place for Canadian retailers to access this as well. (CBA Canada was shut down in the spring of 2007.)

CBA and NetGalley Partner

CBA, the leading association for providers of Christian products, and NetGalley today announced a joint initiative to give Christian retailers quicker and wider access to digital galleys of forthcoming books from over 20 Christian publishers—including HarperCollins Christian, B&H Publishing, Baker Books, Barbour Publishing, David C Cook, and many more.

By adding their CBA member ID to their NetGalley profile, Christian retailers receive a prominent CBA badge that will allow publishers to identify them as key influencers. Publishers can then approve requests for review copies more quickly, add CBA members to their auto-approved lists for access to all new books, and invite them to review new books first.

“This partnership will help Christian retailers remain competitive by giving individual employees within Christian retail establishments fastest and earliest access to new books,” said Curtis Riskey, President, CBA. “Of course many stores receive print galleys, but digital review copies give booksellers an additional format for reading; provide copies for more employees within the store; and give retailers access to a wider array of books. We are pleased to be working with NetGalley to ensure that CBA members are prominently recognized.” …

continue reading here

This is a great step.

This blog has also lobbied long and hard for more chapter excerpts which can be used on store websites, blogs and linked in Facebook pages. While this doesn’t resolve that, it does mean that store staff at least can read titles in the comfort of their own homes, and hopefully the excitement of what they’re reading will be contagious with customers.

An All-Time Christian Fiction Top Ten

November 5, 2015 1 comment

Lists are ubiquitous on the internet, but sometimes one gets us curious and sparks discussion. Such is the case with this list at Newsmax. There’s a write-up for each title, we’ve just listed the books in question here. Click the title below to see more.

10 Most Popular Works of Christian Fiction

  1. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  2. Christy – Catherine Marshall
  3. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
  4. Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
  5. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
  6. Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
  7. Love Comes Softly – Janette Oke
  8. The Man Who Was Thursday – G. K. Chesterton
  9. Wise Blood – Flannery O’ Connor
  10. This Present Darkness – Frank Peretti

So what do you think? What about Les Miserables by Victor Hugo? Or Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers? And wouldn’t you want to include Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan in a list like this? Am I being too Evangelical to want to include In His Steps by Charles Sheldon? Or The Singer by Calvin Miller? Or Hannah Hurnard’s Hind Feet on High Places? How about a nod to Beverly Lewis for kick-starting the Amish genre within Christian fiction? Or was that Wanda Brunstetter?

In a larger store environment, do you think a display of this top ten (or an amended version) would work for Christmas?

Again, click the title to read the full comments for each title at Newsmax.

The Future of Your Store’s Marketing is HTML, Not Catalogs

I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it here; your store should be getting a regular if not constant stream of HTML elements that you can use on your store website, store Facebook and store Twitter pages. If not, something’s wrong. They should include both general product panoramas like the one below, and promotions for a specific title. They should be free of charge for you to use as often and wherever you like.

You need this. I need this. Authors need this.

New From Baker Books Fall 2015


(Yes, I know, a 2-letter concession to U.S. spelling today, but headers are different!)


Adding Pictures To Your Facebook Updates and Blog Posts

Sometimes I forget that what is second nature to people who use social media is somewhat mysterious to those who are still getting their feet wet.  When you set up your store Facebook account or start your store blog, everyone says that adding pictures to your posts or updates is absolutely essential to getting results.  So how do you do that?

As retailers, we have special access to an excellent source: Ingram.  All the book images are exactly the same size; small thumbnails that are perfect for Facebook and large enough for blogging. 

  1. Locate the item on Ingram.
  2. Right click on the image and choose “save image as” or its Apple equivalent.  Save the image in a file you can call “book covers” or “cover images” as you might want to use the picture more than once or in more than one media.
  3. Give the image a different name than the “title uploader” number that Ingram assigns to it.  The title of the book is best, because, in the case of blogging, you’ll also have ‘tagged’ the pic for people doing a search engine image search; bringing in more readers.
  4. Now add the picture to your FB update or blog post.  With FB, choose “upload a photo” in WordPress pictures are acquired by the first icon in the “upload/insert” row.  You may have to remind your computer to locate your book cover files if you also have personal photos you upload to personal FB pages or blogs.

That’s it! You and your readers will appreciate the difference.

Key Question to Ask Consignment Authors

With the landscape rapidly changing, and more authors moving to various types of self-publishing, bookstores are being inundated with requests to take books on consignment.  I remember getting requests like this every two or three months, and now it’s two or three requests every week.  Some have even tracked down my home address.   So how do we frame a response?

I believe the key is in asking each author, “What mechanism(s) exist that would cause a customer to seek out your particular book in our particular market?” In other words, you’re asking the author what promotional efforts they are making that would create ripple effects in the city or town where your store is located.  They are offering to place the books; and you have a retail store.  That’s the supply side.  What’s being done on the demand side? 

In nine out of ten cases, the author can’t come up with a valid answer.  Authors sell books.  However, if the book’s title identifies a “felt need” I might consider the book anyway if the consignment percentage makes it worth setting up the necessary paperwork.

We’ve covered this topic before: See this article from June, 2010


If you’re an author considering self-publishing, make sure you know where you’re going to see your product sales happen.  As one co-author told me, “We sold 17 copies the first day, and after that sales tapered off.”  You need a plan that has lots of follow-through so you’re sales aren’t just a one-day wonder.


New Books Simply Re-State What Old Books Already Said

September 7, 2010 1 comment

Over the years, I’ve watched as people in the blogging community literally burn out in terms of providing daily spiritual writing.   It happened with a guy named Jim Lehmer at the aptly named, “Lord I Believe Help My Unbelief.”  His blog became a repository for recipes.  Then Abraham Piper — yes he’s related — at the blog, “22 Words,” changed both his blog style and its faith focus several months ago.

Last week it was Canadian Jordon Cooper.    On August 29th he posted:

A lot of you have asked why I have stopped posting about items of faith and Christianity here and the reason is pretty complex.  First of all after reading around 5 books a week for 15 years or so, I no longer have the time or the desire to read that much.  Much of that reading was theological or about church life and what has been said on the topic for me has been said.  I still get probably 100 books a year to review and most of them are just rehashing what has been said and said and said again.  On the occasional time when I can force myself to enter into [the local Christian bookstore], I see the same book, just written by different authors.  I know I am taking some shots at some friends here but it seems like a lot more reflection and a lot less publishing may help everyone.

There’s a lot more going on in Jordon’s life; and although I’ve been reading him for many years, we don’t know each other.   There are many paragraphs beyond this one, and if you wish to continue — you might want to pray for him, too — here’s the link.

But I want to pick up on the opening paragraph here:

  • He’s getting about 100 books a year to review.  As the owner of a bookstore and the proprietor of three blogs, I have probably received about twenty books this year.   If that.   And he admittedly currently isn’t reading and reviewing them all.
  • He feels that each new book is simply reiterating thoughts that have already been said.   I can relate to that, though I usually get books by begging and pleading, so I am already biased toward the new titles I review.
  • He states his disdain for the Christian bookstore industry by describing his visits there in terms of ‘forcing himself to enter.’

Let’s review those three comments.

  • There is no doubt that a lot of books are distributed far and wide to everyone BUT the people who can make a title succeed.   All the media reviews in print, Christian radio, and social media don’t mean a thing if you and I don’t order copies of the books to display in our stores.   This free distribution simply drives up marketing and publicity costs, and thereby, the SRP of each book.
  • I can’t get my views aired on talk radio in a major market unless I can convince the call screener that I have a “fresh take” on a certain subject.   (Which, in the still unpublished The Pornography Effect, I did.)   Books still use up a lot of trees and there needs to be a higher standard in terms of topic.   However…
  • …This is difficult because most acquisition editors at Christian publishers are blissfully unaware of what’s in the competitor’s catalogs.
  • Christian bookstores can still be a major destination if owners will commit to hiring the best staff.   Let the after-school students stock the shelves and play with the price guns.   Have mature staff there for the sole purpose of investing themselves in the lives of people who enter; listening to their stories; suggesting other possibilities; praying with them right then and there.   Word will spread.   People will tell their friends.   Those who found connection at the store will return.  When the ministry is viable, the volume at the cash register will take care of itself.